Neurology Central

Study highlights potential mechanism underlying link between lack of sleep and obesity

A cross-sectional study carried out at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (AL, USA) has recently identified a potential new relationship between insufficient sleep and secondary eating and drinking. The team believe that the results may shed light on the mechanism underlying the well-know association between short sleeping times and obesity.

“The association between short sleep and obesity risk is well-established,” explained lead author Gabriel Tajeu (University of Alabama at Birmingham). “However, we are looking at whether short sleep is linked to more time spent in secondary eating or drinking, that is, eating or drinking beverages other than water — such as sugar-sweetened beverages — while primarily engaged in another activity, such as television watching.”

The research team collected data on time spent on both primary and secondary eating and drinking from 28,150 American adults (55.8% female) ranging from 21 to 65 years of age. All individuals had participated in the American Time Use Survey between 2006 and 2008.

Utilizing a multivariable regression model to discount independent variables other than sleep duration as much as possible, the team analyzed the relationship between sleep time and eating and drinking behaviors. Study participants who reported short sleep (less than seven hours a night) engaged in an extra 8.7 minutes per day of secondary eating and 28.6 and 31.28 minutes per day of secondary drinking on weekdays and weekends, respectively.

Tajeu commented: “short sleep is associated with more time spent in secondary eating and, in particular, secondary drinking. This potentially suggests a pathway from short sleep to increased caloric intake in the form of beverages and distracted eating and thus potential increased obesity risk, although more research is needed.”

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham press release